(WQOW) – The number of deaths by suicide was down in Wisconsin in 2018 after reaching a record high in 2017.
A report from the Department of Health said 887 Wisconsinites died by suicide in 2018. That is down from 918 in 2017.
Although numbers slightly decreased, suicide rates have been rising nationwide and Wisconsin has not been immune to the trend.
DHS data shows rates increased by 40% from 2000 to 2017.
Eau Claire Public Health Nurse Chelsie Smith said a slight drop from year to year is good, but the issue of suicide is very complex.
She said she would like to believe the decline was because of more access to resources and people reaching out, but she said at this point, they do not have concrete evidence to back that up.
“There’s a lot of stigma associated with suicide and with mental illnesses in general and we really need to start looking at our mental health as part of our whole physical well-being,” Smith said.
Representative Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) believes extreme-risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws, would help lower suicide rates. The bill would allow judges to seize guns from someone they determine to be a threat, whether it is too the public or themselves.
“One of our main roles in government is public safety,” Emerson said. “That is one of the roles that we need to do as government because if we don’t have public safety as a top priority, then I don’t know what our government is good for.”
Senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) also commented on the decrease in deaths by suicide.
He said he is a proud sponsor of Senate Bill 270 which will provide more funding for the Center of Suicide Awareness Inc.
The Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Task Force recently toured the state to hear from survivors, experts and families impacted by suicide. The bi-partisan group is backing a number of bills meant to better address the problem here in Wisconsin.
If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, you should call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. There is also an online chat available.